Twitter has banned no shortage of conservatives, the most notable being Milo Yiannopoulos.
Banning, however, often results in bad PR. Who wants to use a platform that silences their viewers? And fans of those silenced aren’t happy, either. Some have even left for “free speech alternatives” to Twitter, like Gab.
The solution for Twitter? Shadow-banning. Rather than banning “problematic” users outright, they’ll significantly throttle the reach of those targeted users, essentially leaving them alone in the internet wilderness without ever knowing it. Here’s how it works: Suppose you’re a “problem” Twitter user (i.e. someone spreading conservative opinions) with 100 followers. On Twitter, the virality of a post is driven by the number of “retweets” it gets (directly putting it in the newsfeed of everyone following the retweeter) and “favorites,” which can also cause it to show up in more newsfeeds.
Now, of my 100 followers, suppose I’m followed by someone influential like a network commentator. It’s their accounts retweeting me that give my posts the greatest probability of reaching a wide audience. So if I’m “shadow banned,” my posts will be hidden from the newsfeeds of my most influential followers. Pretty tricky, eh?
While the existence of “shadow banning” has been around for quite some time, we finally have audio proof that it’s occurring from Twitter employees themselves. According to the latest investigation from Project Veritas,
Current and former Twitter employees are on camera explaining steps the social media giant is taking to censor political content that they don’t like.
This video release follows the first undercover Twitter exposé Project Veritas released on January 10th which showed Twitter Senior Network Security Engineer Clay Haynes saying that Twitter is “more than happy to help the Department of Justice with their little [President Donald Trump] investigation.” Twitter responded to the video with a statement shortly after that release, stating “the individual depicted in this video was speaking in a personal capacity and does not represent of speak for Twitter.” The video released by Project Veritas today features eight employees, and a Project Veritas spokesman said there are more videos featuring additional employees coming.
Here are some other nuggets:
Abhinov Vadrevu, a former Twitter software engineer: “One strategy is to shadow ban so you have ultimate control. The idea of a shadow ban is that you ban someone but they don’t know they’ve been banned, because they keep posting and no one sees their content. So they just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it.”
Twitter software engineer Steven Pierre: “Every single conversation is going to be rated by a machine and the machine is going to say whether or not it’s a positive thing or a negative thing. And whether it’s positive or negative doesn’t (inaudible), it’s more like if somebody’s being aggressive or not. Right? Somebody’s just cursing at somebody, whatever, whatever. They may have point, but it will just vanish… It’s not going to ban the mindset, it’s going to ban, like, a way of talking.”
Olinda Hassan, a policy manager for Twitter’s Trust and Safety team: “Yeah. That’s something we’re working on. It’s something we’re working on. We’re trying to get the shitty people to not show up. It’s a product thing we’re working on right now.”
Like all Project Veritas investigations, more will be released in the following days.
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